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By Summer Phillips
I was invited to go on a familiarisation trip to the Lake Geneva Region, hosted by Swiss Travel Centre, Montreux Riviera and Lausanne Tourism. Lake Geneva is close to both the French and Italian borders and the main language spoken is French. Lake Geneva is Switzerland's largest body of water which spans over 224 square miles.
Montreux is well known for being the host of the Jazz festival which is held annually over two weeks in July, and Montreux was also one of Freddie Mercurys favourite places. During April Mid May, its the season of the narcissus flower, which coats the landscape of upper Montreux and Vevey.
Lausanne is known for being Switzerlands City of Justice and of course the Olympic City, half way between the Jura Mountains and the Alps. It has numerous historical buildings and new developments. Surrounding Geneva is some of Switzerlands well known wine regions. The Lavaux wine region is near to Lausanne, the Chasselas is one of the most popular white wines drank in this region.
Day 2 - Up bright and early and took a taxi to Heathrow T2 and met the rest of the group after check in. We flew with Swiss airlines from Heathrow Geneva, the flight took around 1 hour 30 mins. After collecting our baggage we took the short walk to train station, which is situated below the airport and travelled SBB first class to Lausanne.
This morning we explored the Olympic Museum & enjoyed a lunch at TOM café in the museum. The museum has 4 floors, TOM café, Le Monde the Olympic world, Les Jeux the Olympic Games and LEsprit the Olympic spirit and also the Olympic Park open-air museum with sculptures and a 100m athletics track!
We had a guided tour around Chateau du Chillon and a wine tasting of Clos du Chillon. The chateau offers several different guided tours or audio guides, from the must-see, must do at Chillon castle to Privilege Plus Chillon wine tour in medieval costume.
After our tour and wine tasting at Chillon, we took the short bus ride to the hotel Eurotel (only 10 mins from Chillon) where we were stopping for 2 nights, every room in this hotel has a Lake View!
We enjoyed dinner at the Montreux Jazz café. The restaurant has Daily fresh, local menu, seasonal. We got to try the famous Ellas cheesecake (Ella Fitzgeralds favourite), some may argue - the best in the world! Montreux Jazz Cafe has had many people sing on their stage throughout the years, lots of history. Montreux is famous for its jazz festival held in July.
This morning we were going on the chocolate train - Golden Pass train (throughout the seasons they run different things like cheese, chocolate train). Once boarded we had breakfast (Cailler pain au chocolate and a hot chocolate).
The first stop was at Gruyère cheese factory where we had a tour and got to see the production of cheese. We had lunch at Gruyères village, fondue in a traditional chalet. We got to see the Swiss cows on the grounds on Gruyères Chateau and a picture stop.
By bus, we journeyed on to Broc, Maison Cailler, which has produced chocolate on the site here since 1819. We had an interactive chocolate factory history tour (learnt about the origins of chocolate from the Aztecs to the production of chocolate with cows milk by Cailler and Nestle.) We got to taste the different chocolates and of course went into the shop to buy chocolate to bring home!
We had dinner at Au Parc (Italian restaurant) and ice cream on the lake side before heading back to the Eurotel hotel.
Day 4 My highlight of the trip - Glacier3000, a day in the mountains and snow! 08:00 start, we took the SBB from Montreux to Aigle, changed trains and take the narrow gauge to Les Diablerets, and bus to Col du Pillon which is at the foot of the Glacier3000. We took the cable car up to the top of the mountain, where we had stunning mountainous views on a very clear warm day! At the peak there is lots of activities to do, we enjoyed the walk across the Tissot Peak walk suspension bridge, experienced the alpine coaster, the ice express and a ride in the snow bus and had lunch in the restaurant.
After lunch we headed to Gstaad and boarded the Golden Pass train back to Montreux, amazing scenic journey all the way, we were in first class and had panoramic views. We got our luggage from our hotel in Montreux and made the 40min train journey to Lausanne where we checked in at the Movenpick hotel, just a 5 minute walk from Ouchy metro station.
For our final evening we visited the Royal Savoy Hotel, Lausanne, where we had a tour of the hotel. The hotel was built in 1906 by the Savoir family (Savoy). We had a dinner at the Savoy SkyLounge and watched the sunset with delicious food and wine!
Day 5 Our last morning! Before heading back to the train station and airport for our afternoon flights, we had a 2-hour guided walking tour of Lausanne and learnt about some of the history of the city. We walked and used the metro to get around the city. It has several very old buildings with contracting new developments and has a local market each Saturday selling fruit and veg, cheeses, meats, flowers and other local produce. We got to go inside the Lausanne Cathedral.
After a busy couple of days, full of, scenery, lakes, chocolate, cheese, cows chateaus & we caught the train back to Geneva airport where we boarded our flights and headed back home.